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    Courthouse News: HIV-Positive Pilot Wins Appeal in Privacy Case

    Courthouse News reports on a case concerning (pdf) an HIV-positive pilot’s right to privacy in his medical data. The district court had ruled against him, but the appeals court has reversed the decision.

    A pilot who hid his HIV-positive status from the Federal Aviation Administration for fear of discrimination is entitled to damages for emotional pain, the 9th Circuit ruled, because the FAA and other agencies violated his privacy rights by swapping the information while investigating his disability claim. […]

    Social Security, the Department of Transportation and the FAA soon discovered conflicts in the information he’d provided to each agency, prompting them to compare data.

    The plaintiff was later convicted on one count of making and delivering a false official writing.

    He sued in federal court, claiming the departments violated his right to privacy by exchanging his records. He said this resulted in humiliation, embarrassment, mental anguish and other severe emotional distress. […]

    On appeal, a three-judge panel in San Francisco reversed.

    “Given the nature of the injuries that most frequently flow from privacy violations, it is difficult to see how Congress’s stated goal of subjecting federal agencies to civil suit for any damages resulting from a willful or intentional violation of the [Privacy] Act could be fully realized unless the Act encompasses both pecuniary and nonpecuniary injuries,” Judge Milan Smith Jr. wrote (original emphasis).

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